Nothing New

Shopping – we love it. We do it for fun; we do it with friends. I remember in high school, doing it lots. I would call up a friend and we would want to go out, so we would go to the mall. We would hang out. We would buy clothes. We would buy shoes and earrings and boots and music.

As I got older, I shopped less with friends. I found it was more efficient to shop by myself! I wandered around stores, looking at pretty things. I would appreciate interesting paintings and cool home décor items. I would covet fancy dresses and expensive shoes, even if I did not always buy them. Sometimes I would purchase. Other times I would go overboard, and blow the bank. Mostly I stayed within my means and only bought stuff I either really really liked, or really really wanted.

Then I had kids. Suddenly I had two other little people accompanying me on these shopping trips. When my son was first born it was great, I could schlep him around anywhere while he either slept or cooed happily. No problem. We scoured the malls together. I spent more money than I should have, bought more stuff than we needed.

Once I had two kids I used shopping as an excuse to get out of the house. I would start to feel cooped up if I stayed indoors for too long. Sometimes we went out for groceries, sometimes for things for the house, and many times for shoes, boots, clothes and kids stuff.

So now my house is filled with stuff. I don’t have a big house, so I don’t have massive amounts of stuff, but each closet and cupboard and shelf and storage area is expertly arranged and organized so that the maximum amount of stuff can be packed in. For example, I have what I like to refer to as the “jigsaw container drawer”. The only way to get everything that belongs in that drawer to fit in that drawer is to precisely perform a plastic container jigsaw puzzle. If you do not know my puzzle secrets, you will never get it all in.

So what do I need all this stuff for anyway? Why is shopping a form of entertainment, and a way to spend my time?

Some people do things differently. There is a growing movement of minimalism out there. People are eliminating their possessions and getting back to basics. Some are paring back so drastically, that they possess only 100 items, like this guy (watch video). Imagine having only 100 items? I bet there are millions of people in the world who have less than 100 items, but imagine doing this on purpose? I bet I have 100 items in one cupboard alone. However these people live simply, and focus on that which is truly important – love, friends, family and happy moments.

There is another movement called the compact. It started in San Francisco, where a group of people made a pact to purchase nothing new for one year. What would that even look like? Well it would mean no more purchases of clothes, shoes and boots. New home décor items would especially not be allowed. It would mean no more fun trips to the mall, to spend money on things I think we need but mostly just want.

I know that walking lightly upon the Earth means consuming less. How can I walk lightly when I go to the mall and come home with plastic bags full of extra clothes, shoes and boots, and now also, toys for the kids? How much extra stuff do we need and why do I think we need it?

The fact is that I probably don’t need much of it at all. I need essentials, but we are not talking about essentials are we? My shopping bags are not full of essentials. I already have a closet full of clothes, shoes and boots, and so do my kids. We are talking extras here, luxuries.

If I want to get serious about reducing my carbon footprint, I have to reduce my consumption. All these items take materials from the Earth, they take carbon to produce, carbon to ship and then will probably end up in a landfill anyway, where they will release methane as they rot. So what to do?

Well I can do something about it. Are you ready? This is a big one. I will commit to not purchase anything brand new for the first three months of the year.

These are my exceptions:

  1. Food
  2. Toilet paper
  3. Items to make my own homemade cleaners, cosmetics and soaps
  4. Things for gardening/composting
  5. Fabric and notions to make some homemade clothes for my kids
  6. Used items

I want to try that on and see how it feels. I suspect my bank account will be smiling. Heck, I am smiling, because I am so excited for this challenge. I will just have to make due, and figure out a way. The time I save by not shopping, perhaps will now be spent on the floor playing with my kids. Or perhaps I will read another good book. Or perhaps I will just look outside and appreciate the birds singing in the trees.

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26 thoughts on “Nothing New

  1. I am so excited for you, Sherry. Maybe my wife can be encouraged to take up this challenge too.

    She can’t do without her shopping fix, though she has curbed some impulse buying in recent years. I am fine if she spends a bit more during our travels to buy souvenirs and clothes, but not every week.

  2. Nice! I’m interested in how this goes! The hardest part will be the kids clothes, don’t you think? They’re growing! You’re going to get good at sewing, that’s for sure!

    Also, I can vouch for the plastic container jigsaw puzzle. I have tried, and failed repeatedly, at putting away containers at your house.

    • Kids grow, yes. But! We have enough clothes to last for the winter with the exception of too small pj’s for my boy. I also worry slightly about my girl’s rapidly growing feet, her boots fit now but we may need 7s by winter’s end. The one thing I am worried about – hair gel.

  3. Wow! Fabulous commitment, well done you. I really understand the wants vs needs thing, I talk about it, write about it, think about it but every time I’ve tried to do a ‘spend nothing’ month I have failed after about 2 weeks. I’m not sure why because I’m after a simpler lifestyle. This year is the year of the declutter and tbh it goes hand in hand with not buying more stuff doesn’t it? I am, however, trying to buy *better quality* things when I buy and this is a good step forward.
    Best of luck; I really admire you and look forward to hearing your progress…

    • Thanks! I totally agree with buying better quality things, this is something I will do in the future, especially with clothes so they last longer. However, one of the reasons I think I can do this challenge is because I have too much stuff already…

  4. I LOVE your commitment. We are on the same path. I will be excited to learn how your challenge turns out … and what challenges you experience along the way. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

  5. I admire this. It’s more or less how I live… no new clothes or home decor stuff in almost a year. I wish I could say it was a conscious decision, but it’s mostly due to just being broke. Except now that I’m moving to a new house, I’ll have to go buy stuff. Otherwise Eric and I will be sitting on the hard floor in the centre of an empty room eating food out of the box. Haha. I have the opposite problem from you, I guess.

    • Just think of it as a clean slate… But you are right, it is hard to set up a house without buying stuff. Also – doesn’t Eric have a knack for building furniture? 🙂 I am sure you already do this, but take a look at the thrifty stores and VV, and you will save a bundle, especially for kitchen-y things.

  6. That’s great! I’ll bet you find not shopping and getting new stuff very liberating. I realized maybe two years ago that I really didn’t enjoy shopping (the harsh lights, the overexposure to stuff leave me wandering around in an indecisive daze) and that there were so many things I would rather do with my time. I like beauty too much to be a minimalist, but I try to live by William Morris’s idea: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    • I love that quote. My issue is that most things I have seem useful in some way, if not now then maybe later. So it is hard to de-clutter. Perhaps I need to take a closer look. I would hate to get rid of something and then find out that I could have used it and now have to replace it… It is something I wrestle with. I am also nostalgic about some things. Maybe those items will go in my beautiful pile… 🙂

      • My dad shows distinct symptoms of hoarding and I’m terrified of becoming like him, so I don’t hang on to things that I don’t expect to use within the next year. Marrying a closet minimalist has been helpful — we periodically purge our book and music collections, going head to head to see who can get rid of more. We don’t get rid of anything that would be hard to replace if we ever wanted to, and we hardly ever wind up wanting to.

  7. Good for you! I bet your bank account is beaming. I’ve been trying to live that way for the past 6 months – not buy anything new except essential items. I like embarking on DIY projects, so I doubt I could ever be a minimalist for that reason. And personally I think sustainability is more important than minimalism, though it is a very admirable endeavor, and I have learned a few things from the movement. But minimalism focuses a little too much on stuff itself, rather than the philosophy of voluntary simplicity.

    • Lynne you took the words out of my mouth. I don’t mind keeping some of the stuff I have, I just don’t want to acquire more stuff, when I have perfectly good stuff sitting right here. In fact now that I am becoming all eco, I find myself saving more stuff, like little things like pieces of ribbon and rubber elastics and bread bag tags… I might appreciate that pretty little piece of ribbon for something one day (gift, doll clothes, kid’s craft), and wouldn’t it be better to save it to reuse it instead of chucking it?

      • Me too! I have all sorts of scrap fabrics, cut up T-shirts, strings, wine corks, bottle caps collecting for some future project. I’ve also been collecting containers and glass bottles – who knows, they may become my future drinking glasses or storage jars one day. I agree – why chuck it, when it’s totally functional?

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  9. Good for you! I love thrift shops and libraries, but I’m not quite tough enough for this one. My soft version is having a written or at least mental list of “needs” when I’m out shopping. This has helped me to avoid impulse buys.

    • It actually has not been as hard as I thought it would be. I have such stockpiles of stuff (clothes, toiletries, etc) that I have not even run out of anything yet. Where I now get my shopping fix is at the farmer’s market. I call Saturday mornings “market day” and I go out and talk to each of the vendors, carefully select my foods. It is more fun and interesting than grocery shopping. The challenge is also for only 3 months, so I am starting a mental list of what I need to get once the three months are over. But even those things on the list, I don’t really need. It is kind of freeing, in a way. Simple. 🙂

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